Thursday, April 7, 2016

Credit Union Cherry Blossom 2016 Volunteer Report: Let Them Eat Cheese!

One of the best things about the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run organization is that they award every single volunteer with a guaranteed bib into the race the next year. No lottery stress!

Ok, let me stop you here. If you've even read this far, I apologize. I admit this isn't the most exciting beginning to a blog entry ever, is it? I mean, no lottery stress? Is that really a stress? (I mean, yes, it is a stress waiting to see if you've gotten into the race, but is it that big of a deal? Ok, maybe it is kind of a big deal because Cherry Blossom is such a great race, but you know what I'm saying, this isn't the stress level of a surgeon in the ER, or even an Air Traffic Controller we're talking about here.)

I've started to write this blog entry many times, and each time I'm left with the notion that I should just tell you to go read my friend Tai Fung's Cherry Blossom Volunteer report over here. He's funny and clever and tells the same story that I am about to tell, but with actual humor and important information.  Plus he has GIFs! I have no idea how to add a GIF and even if I did, how do you find the funny ones and then um, make funny commentary below them? So, just read Tai's blog and you'll have a guaranteed good time AND you'll find out all you need to know about volunteering at Cherry Blossom. 

(Are you still here? Thank you! I'll try to keep you awake, I promise!)

So, when I met some of the volunteers at the 2015 Cherry Blossom race, I vowed to sign up to volunteer in 2016.

Okay, maybe I can be funny. This is a funny GIF right? Am I funny? AM I FUNNY? *cries*  

Cherry Blossom let's you pick your volunteer assignment in great detail, from which day you would like to volunteer (FRI-SUN) and what job you would like to do (Security, Info Booth, Bag Check,  etc). Plus you get a fancy t-shirt AND they invite you to a special party! 

I decided to use a specific volunteer strategy: I would volunteer on Friday, giving myself all day Saturday to rest before racing on Sunday. And I would pick the Information Booth because...well...because it sounded like I could sit down and just talk to people. Sitting down would give me another few hours to rest up my legs before the race. Truthfully, not only did I really *not* need to rest my legs, as I hadn't even been training in the last several months, and I had barely been running at all since my injury, but also I didn't end up sitting down in the information booth anyway. Information is much better given out while standing up, turns out. 

I showed up at the Information Booth to begin my, um, Informationing Duties at 2PM on Friday. The expo hall was bustling with volunteers and CUCB (that's short for Credit Union Cherry Blossom) workers setting everything up. The official opening of the expo would not be until 3PM. I started talking to a woman who was also working the info booth and she casually asked me if I had "read all of the information they sent out so we would be ready in the booth..." WAT? Um. No? There was information? "I am here to like, give information but ahhh, I didn't know we had to um, read  information before we gave it out." I mumbled. She didn't seem to be bothered by this...lack of information from me and cheerily stated that I should not worry, that she volunteers at CUCB every year and she had refreshed herself by reading the information they sent to us, and she felt confident that she knew all the information we would need to give out. PHEW. There were several chairs behind the information booth desk and she took one. I stood by the side of the booth, slightly nervous about my, lack of information. 

I was busy going over and over in my mind what questions people could possibly ask and figuring I could wing it, after all, I was a veteran of this race, having completed it as my first Ten Miler (which wasn't actually 10 miles) in 2015, when my friend Tai Fung showed up. We had laughed a few days before when we figured out that we'd both picked the Information Booth for volunteering (great minds think alike) and I quickly asked him, "Did you read all the Information that they sent to us that we were supposed to read so we are like, prepared to answer questions?" And he looked at me and said, "No?????" And I suggested that he join me on the side of the table where we would be less likely to have to give out Actual Information. 

But when the expo opened we actually did give out a lot of information. Turns out I did know most of the answers to questions people asked, from having raced CUCB before, and I really enjoyed talking to all the racers who were coming through the expo. Mostly the questions were about where to pick up bibs (up there), where to donate shoes (over there), what metro stop was closest to the race (ask him), where should spectators go for the best viewpoints (this was my favorite question and I really liked talking to the runners about who was coming to see them and where their family and friends should go), what was the course like (also another favorite - gah, ask a runner to talk courses about a race they've completed and we can tell you mile by mile and then we'll tell you how we felt and all about that tiny little hill and then when we nearly stumbled and then where we picked it up and well, you get it, I had plenty of Informationing to do!).

Volunteering at a race (or before a race in this case) is such a rewarding experience, not just with guaranteed bibs or t-shirts or parties but being able to experience racing from the other side is so important. Talking to racers, helping out, and yes, giving actual information to them, all of that makes the race happen. And when I race I feel like I have a better handle on what the volunteers have given: their time, energy and a lot of love. I cannot recommend it enough for every runner - get out there and volunteer - do it for a race you may or may not be running - any race, just be a part of it from the other side. You deserve to understand. Plus, free stuff, come on? You guys, seriously, do it!

So, just as we were getting rolling in the booth, Meb began his first presentation. The energy was huge! People LOVE Meb! Everyone loves Meb! I am a HUGE Meb fan. I love Meb! I was screaming in my cube at work with my headphones on when he was winning Boston. And now, at the Expo, I was SO excited he was there, in the flesh, just in front of me!

This is Meb running away when he found out I was in the Expo as well. Someone heard him shouting, "Get that crazy girl away from me!"

Hey - by the way, I think you see I figured out how to add GIFs to my blog after all? Tai Fung, if you're reading this, I'm going to get better at this and then you and your perfectly hilarious blog had better watch out! There's a New World Order coming to Blog Land!

Ahem, so where was I?

"Go get your photo taken with Meb," our Volunteer Boss Denise urged us. I was super casual. "Uh, you know, I'm moving to San Diego soon and I'm sure I'll see him all the time there, so I don't really need to have my photo taken with him."  The truth is that even though I'm only 5'4 on a good day, I knew I would look gargantuan next to Meb. There was no WAY I was going to be photographed next to him! I paid homage from a safe distance. I'm quite sure Meb was fine with this.

Soon a woman approached the booth. I looked at her quizzically. "I think I know you from somewhere? You look so familiar. Do we know each other?" I asked. "I'm KimRunsMiles&Smiles from Twitter she said." "YES! So nice to meet you in person! I'm CCRuns!" "I know," she said. And we laughed. Twitter handles are one thing on twitter, but when you say them out loud when meeting a person In Real Life, you have to just laugh. Kim, like Tai Fung, is a CUCB Social Ambassador, which basically means they are VIP and Super Hot Stuff.

Cherry Blossom Social Ambassadors doing their Ambassadoring at the Expo

Next my other friend Kim stopped by. She's in my running group My Running Girlfriends and she and I raced the Tri-4-Love Triathlon together.  I was so excited to see her again! The Information Booth was the place to be! She and I talked race strategy (she was going to kick some major ass and I was going to try to not die) and a few minutes later I saw another familiar face. Except like with KimRunsMiles&Smiles, I couldn't quite figure out where I knew him from. I tilted my head to the side what? What does tilting your head to the side actually do? But I tilted my head and looked at him again and realized he was *also* a runner from the world of Twitter. Mr. MidPackBiped had arrived at the Info Booth to say hello!  

The guy in the yellow ran to the Expo. The girl in the middle ran to the corner to catch an Uber to the Expo. 

And by the way, he ran to the Expo and he was planning on running back to his office afterward! What seemed like only moments later, we were being released from our Informationing Duties. It was nearly 6PM and a fresh group of volunteers had arrived (great news for the later arriving runners, this group seemed quite prepared to give out accurate information) so our little gang hit the mean streets of DC for a quick break before we had to be back at the expo for the volunteer party. We somehow talked MidPack into joining us for a beer (I'm in Olympic Level Beer Drinking shape right now and I intended to show these guys that training pays off!) and I know you know this, but beer and running go so well together that before we knew it we had all been talking races and beer and running and recovery and the time flew by and we were suddenly late for the party!

And what a party it was! As if a guaranteed race bib for 2017, a fancy shirt and the general fun of being at the Expo wasn't enough, CUCB hosts a Volunteer Party the Friday night before the race. AND THERE WAS A MAC-N-CHEESE BAR! I mean, what? It was fabulous. There was a crudité platter as well and it was also fabulous but let's just revisit: what is more brilliant than inviting runners to a mac-n-cheese party? These people know how to do it up right. There was also a live band, wine and prizes and a ton of general merriment.

Now, with our bellies filled with a little beer, a lot of mac-n-cheese, and our hearts filled with the satisfaction of volunteering, all we had left to do was get some rest and prepare to race on Sunday. 


  1. I didn't LOVE Meb until this weekend, but now I do. He was SO NICE after hours of meet and greets, he was still nice to the little people (aka the slow runners) like me. I really do think CUCB has the best volunteer perks - maybe that's why they end up with the best volunteers? Thanks for doing it!

    1. Thank you for reading! Meb & CUCB Fan Club members unite! :)

  2. I'd left a comment here earlier in the month, but I guess it got eaten? Bah. Anyway --

    HOW MUCH FUN WAS THAT DAY?? (all caps for effect)

    Seriously. So much fun, except for the one part about The Thing (which had you in hysterical laughter at my expense!). Anyway, it was a great CUCB weekend, and you were such a great part of the volunteer shift!

    1. I feel AWFUL for laughing so hard at you. Ok, no I don't - it was so funny and unreal! I'm laughing now just thinking about it! I'm pretty sure we had the best CUCB Vol group ever, or at least the most fun!